Community Engagement – A critical part of the fight against antimicrobial resistance

Credit: HERD International

Throughout August we’ll be hosting a series of blog posts from the CE4AMR project’s summer workshop in Nepal.  This interdisciplinary meeting looked at how community engagement and participatory arts methodologies can tackle major health challenges including antimicrobial resistance (AMR). For the next few weeks we will hear from delegates from across the Arts, Humanities, Medical, Anthropological, and Social and Environmental science spheres.  All share their experiences of the workshop, and how they use creative methodology in their own research/practice.

Community Engagement – A critical part of the fight against antimicrobial resistance 

Naomi Bull, Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, shares her experience of attending the recent Community Engagement for Antimicrobial Resistance workshop in Nepal. 

Seeing the bigger picture 

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global challenge which claims the lives of 700,000 people each year. An issue on this scale can’t be tackled in isolation – we must work together if we are to achieve meaningful progress. There is a large community of AMR researchers doing important work on many aspects of this challenge. However, it’s easy to get caught up in your own area of research, so focused on the particular piece of the puzzle you are working on that you lose sight of the very people you are doing the work to benefit: people all around the world who stand to suffer as drug-resistant infections become ever more common. 

It’s for this reason that I was really excited to participate in a recent workshop organised by a dynamic group of researchers from the University of Leeds. They are working on a new project called Community Engagement for Antimicrobial Resistance (CE4AMR) and had teamed up with Nepalese NGO HERD International to host a workshop in Kathmandu, exploring the potential of community engagement approaches and participatory methods to address AMR. This was shaping up to be a great opportunity to take a step back and consider the people behind the science! 

Creative approaches for global health 

Credit: HERD International

The invitation came at a perfect time. Applying creative methodologies to global health challenges is something I’ve become very interested in following a recent project I’ve been working on at the Royal Veterinary College. This involved creating comic books for schoolchildren in India and Kenya to raise awareness of AMR and promote good antimicrobial stewardship practices. Working with the children and local illustrators to create storylines and characters that they related to was thoroughly rewarding. Full of enthusiasm for building on this work, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet colleagues working in this area to share ideas and experiences. 

The three-day workshop was a fantastic whirlwind of brilliant approaches to community engagement and challenging discussions about how these could be effectively evaluated, how successful approaches could be rolled out on a larger scale and how as a research community we can actively engage policy-makers in this process. The delegates represented a great mix of different disciplines, from biological and social sciences to graphic design. There was a real sense of shared enthusiasm for a joined-up approach, maximising potential impact through combining expertise in an interdisciplinary fashion. 

The benefits of community engagement 

Community engagement approaches can empower community members through fostering greater understanding of issues that affect them. Excitingly, they can also be harnessed to look for community-led solutions to AMR and to promote greater understanding of community-level experiences amongst health organisations and policy-makers. The guiding principle of CE4AMR centres on achieving meaningful and sustainable behaviour change through communities who are fully informed and engaged with the concept of AMR. 

The workshop gave me a renewed sense of the vital importance of community engagement in tackling such a complicated and multi-faceted global health challenge. If we aren’t actively engaging with the people who are ultimately affected then how can we be fully aware of the impacts of our work, and what critical pieces of information might we be missing?  

What next? 

Several days after the workshop, the team requested feedback from delegates, including a single word which they felt summed up the experience. The most popular response? Inspiring. Well I certainly thought so too, and I’m looking forward to upcoming opportunities to embed community engagement into my future work and collaborate with some of the brilliant colleagues I met in Nepal. In the end, our overarching goal should be to tackle AMR together 

@NaomiBullVet

@CE4AMR

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not representative of  Changing the Story.

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